Marlborough, on New Zealand’s South Island, boasts an international reputation for its sauvignon blanc. Although only a relatively young wine growing region (production only commenced in the late 1970s), Marlborough is responsible for the establishment of the New Zealand wine industry, comprising over three quarters of the nation’s vineyards.
The town of Blenheim, the largest in the Marlborough region, enjoys more sunshine each year than anywhere else in New Zealand. This, along with the broad alluvial plain and rich soils protected by the mountain ranges, create a unique landscape ideal for the growing of wine grapes.
Wine lovers have rushed to visit, and wine tasting tours crisscross the region on a daily basis. There are over 120 wineries and more than 30 of these open their cellar doors to visitors. Guided tours on buses remain popular, and there are plenty of organised tours you can join. For those who want to ride, the 6km Golden Mile trail through Rapaura and Renwick allows you to meander through the vineyards and stop for a sip at one of the nine wineries en-route.
Food tourists also flocked to Marlborough, and pairing wine with local food is incredibly popular, with fresh seafood from the Marlborough Sound topping many menus. Most notable is the locally grown King salmon, served up at cafes and restaurants The Salmon Trail, less a ‘trail’ and more a cluster of eateries around Blenheim, where you can also sample local clams, mussels, oysters and paua.
For those wishing to pair wining and dining, a number of wineries have a café or restaurant on-site. Giesen offers delicious platters, Rock Ferry’s seasonal menu features hearty, flavour-fuelled dishes to match their organic wines, and Allan Scott’s Twelve Trees restaurant is famous for its seafood chowder. Ask someone at your Blenheim accommodation for a local recommendation.
For those wishing to self-cater, a visit to one Blenheim’s markets is a must. Every Sunday, the Marlborough Farmers’ Market operates on the corner of Alabama and Maxwell Roads from 9am-noon, with farmers selling local cheese, bread, nuts (including pine nuts and hazels), honey, olives, chocolates, jams and pickles… the list goes on. Bring a basket and fill it with goodies for a picnic lunch, to be enjoyed as you sample wines throughout the day.
Blenheim accommodation offers visitors plenty of choice. The Quality Hotel Marlborough has a range of rooms including executive suites with spas, to intimate rooms for couples, to two level family suites. Each room is comfortably furnished with décor reflecting the Pacific theme throughout the hotel. Also onsite at this Blenheim accommodation is the popular Nikau Restaurant (open for breakfast and dinner), as well as a heated swimming pool with poolside dining, a great place to relax after a day amongst the vines.